Bristol graffiti company uses baby faces to heal riot-hit London
A Bristol-based graffiti company has been drafted in to help rejuvenate a London borough hit by last year’s riots, by painting babies’ faces on shop shutters.
Drawing inspiration from a study which suggests babies’ faces trigger a caring response in adults, the company was asked by a global advertising company to paint a number of them in a busy street in Woolwich.
Four artists from The Paintsmiths of Bristol travelled to the London borough earlier this month, and spent a night putting their skills into action.
They painted a total of five faces on the shutters of shops in Greens End, including a meat market. All are the faces of local Woolwich babies.
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“The idea was that the features of a baby’s face have a kind of relaxing, nurturing kind of effect on people, they calm people,” said a spokesperson for The Paintsmiths, a new mural and arts company staffed by graffiti artists.
It is hoped the artwork will make the borough more visually appealing, and so foster a sense of pride and encourage people to care about their surroundings. The team hopes it will ultimately reduce crime in the area.
The project was funded by Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, a global advertising company with offices near Woolwich.
It is the brainchild of Ogilvy’s Tara Austin, who told This is Bristol how the company felt the effects of the disorder. “During the riots people were destroying their own communities, it was really sad self-destruction,” she said.
“We wanted to morally and subconsciously stop people from breaking in, and encourage them to see it as a living, breathing community.”
Tara explained she drew inspiration from research conducted in 2009 which showed the proportions of babies’ faces inspired a caring response in adults.
The research, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Muenster, prompted her to do something to help the damaged community.
Via Twitter, Facebook and an advert in a Woolwich newspaper, she appealed for local people to send in photos of themselves as babies, or images of their own infants. Of the 30-odd submissions, five were chosen to become the face of the graffiti project.
A Bristol-based freelancer for the company, Aphra Kiely, was enlisted to source the graffiti artists. Aphra, who lives in Stokes Croft and has strong connections with the city’s art scene, met The Paintsmiths of Bristol through a friend, and soon realised they were the right team for the job.
Aphra, who was previously aware of the work of one of the Paintsmiths, said she took time looking for the ideal artists. “I’m aware of all the talent that’s around,” she said. “When I found them I was over the moon."
She said of the Paintsmiths: “I needed someone who could do photo-realistic style of graffiti. They were just fantastic, they are hugely talented.”
And Aphra hopes this sort of project will soon come to Bristol. “I would like to continue working with them, they are a pleasure,” she said.
To find out more about The Paintsmiths of Bristol, email email@example.com